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Reservists travel to Badlands to do good

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- A disaster doesn’t have to strike for Americans to help other Americans in need.

Twelve reservists from the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron here traveled to south central South Dakota to work at the Rosebud Indian Reservation Hospital April 2-16. They gave medical care to their hosts while doing their annual training tour.

Located 35 miles north of the Nebraska border, the reservation is the home to 30,000 Native Americans of the Lakota Sioux. The Sioux know this land as mako sica. Translated into English it means “badlands.”

Although small, the hospital serves the community well. It has 35 beds, two operating rooms and an emergency room. The Rosebud Indian Reservation medical facility gets about 60,000 outpatient visits a year. More than 5,000 patients require priority one care.

“Life expectancy here is only 47 years old,” said Col. Karen Nagafuchi, a nurse and deployed commander. Compared to the rest of the nation, that is one of the worst life expectancy statistics inside the U.S. borders.

“The predominate problems here are heart disease, diabetes, cancer, tuberculosis and depression,” the colonel said. “The infant mortality rate is very high compared to the nation.”

The Air Force Reserve Command medical team consists of medical administrative and logistics people, emergency room and public health nurses, emergency medical technicians, and a dietician.

“Since we’ve been here, our four EMTs have been on 29 patient transports,” said the colonel.

“On one of the emergency runs a Reserve EMT assisted with the birth of a baby girl,” said Maj. Raymond Mick, chief nurse for the deployment.

On another emergency run, the reservists transported an individual who had been kicked by a horse.

“We’ve been kept quite busy with little time off,” said Major Mick.

With low pay and few attractions to draw qualified medical people, the hospital welcomes the military.

“Respect for the military is high here,” said the colonel.

Diabetes is prevalent in Native Americans on the reservation.

“Our dietary technician has been doing preventive clinics teaching dietetic skills to patients as well as the staff,” said Colonel Nagafuchi.

“The logistic person has helped inventory supplies, and our medical administrative people have helped process over 3,000 claims which mean reimbursement to the hospital,” said the colonel.

Two nurses worked in the ER and taught cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the hospital staff for their recertification.

In addition, nurses helped with home visits to assist with medical care.

“We are just not in the hospital, we’re out in the community doing public health visits,” said the colonel.

The nurses monitored the elderly by screening their weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. They ensured the patients took their medications correctly. The visits included stops to screen pregnant women. Also, the nurses worked to help create a data base to keep track of patients.

“On one of our nurse’s visit, we helped a patient who was in congestive heart failure,” said the deployed commander. “They called for an ambulance to transport the person to the hospital.”

The colonel said it was challenging for the reservists to work as a team in such a short period of time.

“But most of the reservists said this was one of the best tours they have been on,” she said.